Scads and Scads of Skads! (Under Construction)

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by Eric Winsor

When we visited Moonworld a while back we had to sign a waiver taking responsibility for any biological contaminants that we might bring back.  The UPF is concerned with liability related to the potential release of one of the creatures native to Moonworld.  The UPF has great troubles controlling and irradiating infestations of skad in their facilities.

Skad are crustacean like creatures that are equally at home on land or in the sea.  Their eggs are as small as a grain of sand and nearly indistinguishable to the grains of sand that they are laid in.  Well-fed adults of five years can reach a size of about a meter from pincers to tail.  They are prolific and go everywhere.

While we were on Moonworld, we would take an air bath every time we entered a building from outside.  These baths are designed to dry and blow off any sand, and potential eggs or hatchling skads that may have gotten on us while outside.  The first day we were there the standard military training was given about the environment complete with a holo of skads infesting a command post.  The creatures had torn through cables, insulation, fiberboard walls, you name it, in pursuit of food.  A skad infestation can quickly become very expensive.

This fear of infestation is driven by the fact that skad reproduction is not linked to size.  Hatchling skad reach reproductive maturity in 65 to 70 Moonworld days, about 81 – 88 standard days.  Their growth is regulated by their food intake.  A skad surviving on bits and scraps may never grow much beyond the hatchling size of a few millimeters.  A skad with access to carrion can reach a size of a few centimeters after which  it becomes large enough to switch from scavenging to hunting.  Their first prey are small fish.

Skad naturally school together with the smaller skad scavenging on the remains of prey from the larger skad in the school.  This schooling behavior has made their infestation damage to facilities and equipment much more costly.

The holovid then warned of the dangers of wandering unarmed and alone outside the base parameter.  Adult skad gather in packs averaging 6 to 12 and hunt anything that they can find to feed themselves.  We were warned that often part of the pack will hide in vegetation or dunes while the others drive the prey to the trap.  Their weapons are sharp claws, a mouth full of teeth equipped with powerful pincers to pull prey into the mouth, and an armored tail with a sharpened claw to bash, stab, and pinch.  Armor piercing rounds, explosive shells, and range were the recommended weapons to fight them.  Hand-to-hand combat was cautioned against firmly.

When we left Moonworld we were advised to destroy any equipment we found infested by incineration.  Dwain was concerned with his scuba gear so he sealed the decontaminated gear in a vacuum rated shipping container just in case.

 

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A Skad from Moonworld – From Random Creatures 2 by Tysho

Dwain’s Aquarium Lab Infected

When we got back from Osak Dwain went to check on the shworms in his aquarium lab.  The shworms were fine but he found the door to the compression chamber of the deep pressure aquarium sealed shut.  When he gathered the aquarium caretakers together to find out why the compression chamber was sealed we learned that one of the young interns had attempted to take a dive in the pressurized aquarium and had burrowed Dwain’s scuba gear.  He had taken the shipping container into the compression chamber and opened it to suit up but found the box full of little red bugs that bit him on the hands.  The intern sealed the chamber and cycled it to the pressurized environment to keep the creatures confined but was afraid to tell anyone what had happened.  He resigned and left before Dwain, Tik, and I had returned from Osak.  In fact, we were still on New Pale when the boy left for his home world.

The staff discovered something was wrong when they went to restock the feeding hoppers of the pressurized aquariums.  They loaded the hoppers and casually watched the tanks for a creature or two to swim into the light.  What they got was a surprise, a meter long skad crashed into the glass as it grappled with a great deep sea eel from Madderly’s Star.  Investigations of the recordings from the tank monitors revealed that the skad were feeding on everything in the tank and growing in size.  They would soon consume all the specimens Dwain had laboriously collected.

Dwain’s Battle With The Skad

The monitors revealed that there were six surviving skad.  These six were in a stalemate with a giant squid resurrected from a rare DNA sample.  The hoppers were supplying food to keep the seven alive.  The skad would stalk the squid.  The squid would fight back and then retreat.  Dwain feared that the chase would eventually end with the skad feasting on the squid.

Dwain noted that in the observed battles the squid appeared near evenly matched with the six skad.  He reasoned that if one or two skad were to be removed from the fight the squid would survive and likely kill off the remaining skad.  Dwain’s solution was to capture two of the skad and hold them in separate tanks.  Tik preferred the strategy of just killing the skad.  Dwain viewed the capture as a way to compensate for his lost collection.

Dwain and I purchased a large net and a large carcass from a meat packing plant.  I dove with Dwain as armed protection.  Dwain attached the net to the roof of the tank and spread it out along the bottom.  The carcass was placed in the middle of the net.  We retreated to the compression chamber and waited for the trap to snare one of the skad.  We were rewarded after a short wait of a few hours with a catch.  One of the skads took the bait and was pulled to the ceiling with the carcass in the net.  The skad seemed content to devour the carcass while caught in the net so Dwain and I reentered the tank to bring in our catch.  As we approached the snared skad the other five appeared and tried to jump us.  We were compelled to retreat to the decompression chamber again.

The five skad disappeared again back into the shadows.  We watched as the snared skad continued to eat the carcass.  Our team on the outside of the tank tracked the other five skad by the aquarium cameras and scanners and baited them with food from the hoppers.  When they went for the food we reentered the tank to haul in the snared skad.  As we approached it stopped eating and turned to face us.  Dwain swam up to the pulley holding the net to the roof and detached it.  He then signaled for the wench to start hauling in the net into the decompression chamber.  The skad went wild and tore through the net.  Its tail lashed toward Dwain and pierced through his right swim fin.  Dwain was quickly being pulled to the skad and reacted by jerking the strap to his swim fin loose and swam away as fast as he could.

Back in the decompression chamber we debated the situation and Tik piped in over the intercom that no matter what we needed a stronger snare.  Tik observed that the skad had never tried to escape the net while feasting on the carcass.  Rather it appeared to Tik that the skad had allowed itself to be captured to lure us in close enough for the attack by the other five.  Only when we had approached without the other five available for support did the skad act to escape from the net.  We agreed and determined to try another kind of trap.

Dwain and I resolved at length to build a pair of cages and bait them.  The final design was modeled after ancient lobster traps.  We built the cages in pieces to be assembled completely when in the tank.  The fully assembled cage would not fit through the decompression chamber.  Tik accompanied us on the dive to assemble the traps.  We needed two people to assemble the traps and another to guard.  Tik determinably took the position as guard.

The first trap was assembled quickly.  We had trouble with the second.  During the prolonged assembly of the second trap the skad attacked.  Tik had suspected this would happen and came prepared to do more than drive them off.  He had brought explosive darts for his spear gun and shot the first attacking skad behind the head.  The dart exploded inside the skad and severed its head.  The other skad scattered back into the darkness.  Dwain was furious and after finishing the trap assembly dashed back to the decompression chamber to have it out with Tik.  I baited the traps and joined them as quickly as I could.

I found Dwain running on and on about how they were going to lose the skad.  That with only five to go against the squid the balance of power was lost.  Dwain was sure that the squid would kill the other skad.  Tik insisted that the kill was necessary to save everyone from the pack of skad.  I sided with Tik and we convinced Dwain that the pack would have killed us in short order.  Dwain eventually agreed but was continually distraught.

Dwain’s discomfort was heightened further the next day as we watched on the monitors as the squid and skad battled multiple times.  Then the squid took one of the skad with it during its customary retreat.  The skad was dismembered in a dark corner of the aquarium.  Dwain was mortified and would not speak to Tik.  Overnight two more of the skad were attacked by the squid and killed.  Dwain sat in the monitor room glued to the displays tracking the remaining two skad and the lurking squid.

Just before dinner the skad found their way to the traps and began picking at the carcasses through the bars.  Dwain became tense with anticipation, pacing the room.  Tik disappeared from the room and I took the opportunity to reassure Dwain that the traps would work.  Dwain kept shushing me as if silence were necessary to prevent the skad from discovering the danger of the traps.

One of the skad entered a trap and began pulling on the carcass.  The door snapped shut and the skad was trapped.  It began pinching and bighting at the bars.  It wandered the cage searching for an escape.  The other skad left its carcass and began probing the trap from the outside as if to help its companion escape.  Dwain became very excited and began commenting wildly about their behavior.  He repeatedly commanded the computers to take notes of his observations and focus the recorders on this action or that movement of the skad.

Dwain was thoroughly enjoying his skad psychology examinations when the squid unexpectedly attacked.  The squid darted for the skad on the outside of the trap and grappled it.  The skad inside of the trap responded by pinching tight onto one of the squid’s free tentacles and pulling.  The squid held tight to its prey and pulled away from its attacker.  The skad pinched tighter and the tentacle was severed.  The squid withered in pain and the grappled skad jabbed with its tail into the body of the squid.  The squid relaxed its grip just enough that the skad wrestled free.  The two dueled and parried around the traps for a position of superiority.  The skad was clearly loosing.  Then the skad darted into the second trap, grabbed the carcass and pulled violently.  The trap snapped shut and the skad turned defensive again moving against the actions of the surprised squid.

The squid circled the two cages trying to get at the skad inside.  It pulled on the cages trying to separate them.  It pulled the cages against the cables attaching to the wenches.  Then Tik appeared in the water in an atmospheric diving suit.  He advanced directly on the squid and sprayed a colored fluid into the water.  The squid turned toward Tik and entered the cloud of color but quickly retreated back.  It circled around the cloud but Tik released more repellant to drive the squid away.  After several attempts and Tik responding with an ever increasing cloud of repellant, the squid retreated back into the darkness to nurse its severed limb.

Tik started the wenches and hauled the cages back to the decompression chamber.  Each cage was pressed in turn up to the chamber door and the skad was released into the decompression chamber.  Tik radioed to us to start the decompression and capture of the skad.  He did not want to stay in the aquarium any longer than necessary with an angry giant squid.  Our original plan had been for a team of two to press the skad into the chamber with one person erecting a barrier between the skad and the divers.

We carried out the second part of our plan by attaching the exit of the decompression chamber to another cage.  This worked out well, but the skad were very violent and we resorted to stun sticks attached to poles to drive them into the cage.  Tik continually reminded us about how long the decompression had taken and that the uncooperative skad were not making his wait in the aquarium any more comfortable.  When we finally had the compression chamber recompressed Tik was very anxious to get back into the chamber.  We learned later that he used up our entire supply of repellant waiting out the compression cycles in the aquarium.  Though the monitors confirm that the squid remained in the farthest corner of the tank, Tik swears that it came for him several times.

When Tik got through the compression chamber and Dwain got him out of his suit, Dwain kissed Tik square on the mandibles and thanked him for saving the last two skad.

 

Skad

TYPE:

Carnivore

SIZE:

Fry Tiny, Juvenile Small, Adult Medium 1m

NUMBER:

Fry (100+), Juvenile (50), Adult (6-12)

MOVE:

Fast (adult 35m/turn)

IM/RS:

+6/58

STAMINA:

Fry (1-5), Juvenile (10-80), Adult (100-150)

ATTACK:

85

DAMAGE:

3d10

SPECIAL ATTACK:

Pinching/Piercing/Lashing Tail

SPECIAL DEFENSE:

Hard Shell

NATIVE WORLD:

Moonworld, Lynchpin

(Oceans, tide waters and inland for adults)

GM notes

Adult skad function and act much like a pack of wolves.  They are intelligent like wolves and will learn from their experiences.  They are wild and cannot be domesticated.

Hatchling skad that get into equipment or the internal systems of ships are not easily removed by hull scrapers.  Large numbers of hatchlings have been known to live long enough after ingestion to eat the hull scraper from the inside out.